By Brian Fuller, Convenor, from Bulletin 7/2021, September 2021
Members of the Heritage Subcommittee are: Lydia Bushell, Margaret Cody, Lyn Collingwood, Peter Crawshaw, Rodney Hammett, Robert Hannan, Allan Hogan, Joseph King, Ted McKeown, Jude Paul, Margaret Sankey and myself. We still have room for more.
We continued to meet monthly (other than January) at a range of venues that included Rothwell Lodge, The Toxteth (Christmas), St Johns House and of course Zoom.
Thank you to all members for their continued dedication in working towards the preservation and enhancement of Glebe and Forest Lodge for the benefit of our community.
Terms Of Reference
This year, we refreshed our Terms of Reference to ensure it has relevance to the current and imminent issues facing our community while adhering to the Society’s constitution.
For the benefit of new members to the Society and aspiring subcommittee members, the refresh was designed to give:
- A broader look at our activities and responsibilities, with a particular emphasis on the fostering of awareness and appreciation in the value of preserving sustainable heritage
- A focused approach to maintaining the unique and intact heritage character of Glebe and Forest Lodge
- An appreciation of the need for maintaining relationships with Government, the City of Sydney and other Heritage groups
The Terms of Reference can be read here: https://glebesociety.org.au/the-glebe-society/subcommittees/terms-of-reference-heritage-subcommittee-jan-2021/
Many thanks to Ted McKeown for lending us his legal skills in drafting the new document.
On behalf of the Subcommittee, Lyn Collingwood and Rodney Hammett continue to work with a community that looks to the Society for historical information about Glebe and Forest Lodge. Over the past 12 months, Rodney and Lyn have processed 78 enquiries with their typical vigour and enthusiasm. In addition, Rodney and Lyn have written 14 articles on local personalities and items of historical interest for the Bulletin, such that those articles become a permanent record for future generations. For each Bulletin, Lyn has contributed a ‘Who lived in your street’ article and a Mystery Photo for readers to identify. If you come across a photo of an earlier time in Glebe or Forest Lodge, please forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have a growing list of people wanting to participate in a ‘How to Research your Home’ session. COVID-19 has meant we have had to delay the sessions for the time being.
The Subcommittee is hugely indebted to Lyn and Rodney for the volume of work that they undertake.
The 150th anniversary of St Johns Church was celebrated with a five-day public exhibition supported by the Glebe Society and wonderfully managed and curated by a team led by Robert Hannan and Peter Crawshaw. The exhibition included rarely seen photographs and plans of the beautiful Romanesque style Church. Naturally, it explored the work of its celebrated Sydney Architect, Edmund Blacket, whose work on another Glebe landmark is well documented, that being his home in Glebe, Bidura. The exhibition preceded the Society’s Christmas Party held inside the Church on Friday 11 Dec 2020. We also record our appreciation to Rev Mark Wormell and his team for working collaboratively with Society members on both the anniversary exhibition and the Christmas Party.
The Heritage Subcommittee, on behalf of the Society, lodged an entry relating to the Glebe Society’s 50th anniversary celebrations to the National Trust Heritage Awards 2020. These awards recognise events of the previous year, and one of the categories is Heritage Events, Exhibitions and Tours. We were more than delighted that the entry was ‘highly commended’ by the judges. It is a tribute to all Society Members who worked so hard in making the 50th anniversary such a success. Thank you to Jude Paul for coordinating the ‘highly commendable’ entry.
Representations to Government
It is vital that we nurture and maintain a healthy relationship with governments at both State and local levels. The ability of the State Government to categorise development proposals as ‘State Significant Developments’ (SSD) to bypass well enacted Planning and Heritage legislation or controls is becoming a far too regular occurrence. The relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, the new Sydney Fish Market, and the proposed revitalisation of Blackwattle Bay have each been, or will be, controversial, to say the least.
Within our own 2037 borders, the proposed spot rezoning of low rise residential property within our Heritage Conservation Areas to construct high rise residential towers is gaining alarming traction. The Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) owns approximately 11 low rise housing estates in 2037, along with most of the heritage terraces in the Glebe Estate. It has already lodged a DA for the demolition of low rise housing at 17-31 Cowper St and 2A/2D Wentworth Park Rd Glebe. Its replacement with high rise housing is entirely out of scale and context Heritage Conservation Area in which it is located. Similarly, LAHC has declared its intention to undertake a massive high rise development on its existing low rise housing facility fronting Bay, Franklin and Glebe Streets Glebe.
The Honourable Melinda Pavey MP – Minister for Housing
Planning Convenor Ian Stephenson and I met with the Minister to voice the Society’s extreme concern at these developments and the threat of more to come. Simultaneously we expressed that same level of concern over the current state of the Government’s plans for the heritage terraces and residents of the Glebe Estate. No assurances were given (nor expected) at the meeting, and we still await a response to that meeting. Nonetheless, she knows who we are, and we will be seeking further dialogue with her. Our thanks to Councillor Linda Scott who facilitated the introduction and attended the meeting with us.
The City of Sydney
Ian Stephenson (Planning), Allan Hogan, Ted McKeown and I (all Heritage) firstly appeared before the Transport, Heritage and Planning Committee, and secondly the full meeting of Council to argue the case against the LAHC proposals for 17-31 Cowper St and 2A/2D Wentworth Park Rd Glebe. The proposal simply does not conform to the City’s Planning Controls, does not meet the character statement of the Heritage Conservation Area and creates a precedent for imposing additional high rise development in the Conservation Area.
The City maintains it is effectively powerless to stop the State Government from proceeding with these developments, categorised as SSD. Our appearance before Council did us no harm; if anything, it improved our standing with Council as a community voice as we continue to fight against this inappropriate intrusion and destruction of the Heritage Conservation Areas.
President Janet Wahlquist, Ian Stephenson and I met with Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully and Councillor Philip Thallis to pursue progress by Council on matters that have been outstanding far too long. Those matters, in addition to the LAHC development proposals, included:
- Traction on the revitalisation of Glebe Point Rd as a dynamic retail precinct
- The City’s commitment to making a submission to the review of the Heritage Act 1977
- Additional powers to Council to prevent ‘demolition by neglect’ of character heritage buildings in Glebe and Forest Lodge
- Further development of heritage education programs for local owners of character heritage buildings
- Refining the City’s website to assist in researching heritage information resources
- The local listing of the World War 1 digger statue outside the Tramsheds.
Many of these items, including a commitment by Councillor Thallis to address the community on his vision for Glebe, have been delayed due to COVID concerns. However, it was very pleasing to note that due to these representations, the Lord Mayor tabled a Mayoral minute to Council on 17 May 2021 asking Council to expand its heritage conservation efforts, addressing many of the above matters. This particular extract from the Lord Mayoral Minute is significant and is etched in our minds for future reference:
The City is committed to conserving its local heritage items and conservation areas as their historical origins and relationships to places contribute to the local character and strengthen each community’s sense of place.
By far, the most significant DA over the past year in terms of a private large scale apartment development was in respect of the demolition of the Metropolitan Remand Centre (MRC) at the rear of the State and Locally listed heritage home, Bidura. Strongly resisted by the City of Sydney and the local community over many years, the fate of the MRC was eventually determined by the Land and Environment Court.
The Society made a detailed submission that called upon Council to require the protection of historic Bidura House both now and beyond the construction works behind it, and that the importance and relevance of Bidura House and its appropriately scaled setting is not further disrupted by inappropriate landscaping and contextual elements that may occur adjacent to Bidura House. The Society’s submission can be read here: https://www.glebesociety.org.au/bidura-da-submission-6-aug-2021/
Review of the Heritage Act 1977
What should be a time for optimism has been replaced with a sense of scepticism. On the one hand, the review of the Act was initially welcome. However, the Discussion Paper has given cause for alarm that the State Government seeks to weaken the application of the Act to all but a very few iconic heritage assets to remove hurdles to its development programs. The Glebe Society is not alone in this view. There were 295 submissions by interested parties (including the International Council on Monuments and Sites [ICOMOS] Australia and the National Trust) with a common thread of fear of weakening heritage protection in NSW. Common comments in many submissions included:
- An independent Heritage Council
- An appropriately qualified Heritage Council
- Indigenous heritage
- Funding and incentives
- Bypassing the planning system/State Significant Development/intersection with the EPA Act
- Local protection – demolition by neglect
- The proposed category system
- Compliance and enforcement
- Streamlined processes
Some organisations have been invited to appear before the Parliamentary Committee overseeing the review. The following link will provide access to all submissions, and the webcast of the hearing held on 2 August 2021: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2814. We are led to believe more hearings will occur.
We remain committed to actively pursuing the preservation of our heritage assets and Heritage Conservation Areas.
Against a backdrop of a State Government seeking to weaken the Heritage Act, a State Government owner of a substantial number of heritage-listed assets, a State Government with monopoly ownership of the Glebe Estate with a poor record of repair and maintenance, and a State Government that seeks to exempt itself of planning legislation and controls, the community faces many threats and issues.
COVID-19 has caused many of us to recalibrate our priorities on local values, community engagement, sustainable practices and maintaining or renovating our homes as we spend more time confined to them.
The Subcommittee has found itself engaging in conversations comparing pragmatism with idealism as a potential road map towards meeting these challenges more effectively whilst maintaining core values.
The comments of the Society’s broader membership are always welcome, so please feel free to email us at heritage@glebesociety,org.au on these or other heritage-related matters that are important to you.